How do you teach yourself to write better?
The rules aren’t hard but you don’t get better without actually writing. Here’s my take:
Rule #1: Good writing is a kind of fitness… so try and think of it as such
This means that you need to build your writing muscles in the same way that you would work on regular muscles at the gym.
And there are different muscle groups.
Some relate to creativity.
And others relating to editing.
If you are struggling with your writing, you need to isolate and build these muscles separately.
This brings me to the second rule.
Rule #2: Writing = Working out… there is no shortcut
No, writing in your head is not the same.
If you want to write better and build your creative writing muscles, you need to actually write.
This means you need to spend some quantity time working out. So write A LOT.
But don’t worry about quality. At least to start with.
If you’re serious, here’s what works:
- Set a timer for 10 mins.
- Write without stopping about anything that comes into your head.
- DON’T edit, spell check, grammar check or otherwise dither over your content.
- Just write. As fast as you can. On paper. With a pen.
- Don’t stop. Even when your hand cramps.
- Once the timer goes off, immediately stop & count how many words.
If you do this every day for 10 minutes for 4 weeks. I guarantee that you will improve in multiple ways.
Then repeat the activity for another 4 weeks. But this time, focus on a series of topics that relate to what you need to write about. Again, just write without stopping.
After this, or when you are ready, shift your focus to imposing a few simple guidelines for editing.
This brings me to Rule #3
Rule #3: Don’t skip edit day
Here are a few simple guidelines for edit day:
- Avoid long, complex sentences. If you see a long sentence, shorten it. Or split it.
- Don’t use long words when you can use shorter ones. Sure, we need technical jargon and precise language. But do you need to use it right now in your writing? Don’t be a dick.
- Adverbs make your writing weak. Avoid them. If you don’t know what an adverb is ask Google. Don’t be soy and don’t use adverbs.
- Passive voice makes your writing weak as well. Don’t use it. Use the active voice instead. Again, look these up if you don’t know what they are.
- Remember: editing fitness requires a different muscle group to creativity. So, isolate editing practice from creative content generation if you are getting stuck.
- Forget whatever else they told you in school about editing.
That’s it. Now go forth and be a better writer.
If you have any other simple and practical rules for better writing, feel free to share them in the comments.
Hi Graeme. Good advice. I’ll give it a go soon and send some feedback, Mark J
Awesome…! Way to go Mark.